I Wanna Be On Broadway...
It is a hard ask not to see the 2008 summer blockbuster The Dark Knight on the comics page with the recent Vengeance of the Moon Knight. The opening scene play offs almost exactly like that of the blockbuster. In the bright light of day there is a daring bank heist. The criminals themselves are uniformly garish. They stand out amid a Times Square draped in the bright light of day. Dressed in black ultra-stealth suits for urban warfare, they have donned Barack masks to make themselves indistinguishable from one another. Like The Dark Knight too, there is a distraction-crime. In truly vicious fashion, as has become expected of these criminals, a sister-cell has set fire to a nearby pediatric hospital. Manhattan has become gridlocked, the city streets cannot move cars out of the way fast enough, for emergency services to get in. And in an epic six-page sequence, series lead Moon Knight leaps into action. His trademark Moon Cycle is launched into the fray from a Moon Chopper on high.
But beyond the eerily familiar opening scene, there is a further touchstone with last summer’s blockbuster. Penciller Jerome Opeña’s artwork seems light and airy. Breezy, even. Nothing at all like the genre-establishing explicit darkness of erstwhile series artist, David Finch. Just three years back now, in the original 2006 reboot, Finch’s artwork set a benchmark for the visual legitimacy of the character. Both dismal and cynical, Finch offered the perfect visualization of a world gone crazy. And with that the very necessity for a Moon Knight. Everything had gone dark, everything was broken. But Moon Knight himself glowed like the natural satellite he is named for. Pale and haunting, he executed a summary justice with extreme prejudice. A murky world, one mired in an awful randomness of crime. One in which the hero himself became a vicious, life-taking beacon.
However it is not simply Opeña’s art that strikes a distinct tone. Series regular Gregg Hurwitz writes this new Moon Knight and this reboot with an openness and energy. Bullets whiz by, almost literally. But even more than the pure kineticism of this comics, Hurwitz offers a remarkable entry point into the developing story of the Moon Knight. In Hurwitz’ hands, Moon Knight is a character worth reading. There is clear evidence of a core here, a broader story about the character is being told. When Hurwitz writes in Moon Knight’s captioned monologue: ‘Screw the D-List, screw the B-List. Forget the small time. I wanna be on Broadway…’, readers get a sense of powerful character walking tall once again.
Moon Knight is a character often described as an ‘ersatz’ Batman. If the correspondences with director Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight pile up, it is nothing more than an opening gambit for Hurwitz. Even the lightweight body-molded Kevlar reminiscent of scenes from Nolan’s movie that Opeña pencils, plays into this gambit. To be sure nay-sayers will grasp at what no doubt appears as resemblances between this character and DC’s premier costumed vigilante. But for Hurwitz and Opeña, the what out of this quandary, is through. They begin be acknowledging the resemblances. By magnifying it even. It is hard not to think of this new Moon Knight as borrowing from Batman. Particularly when it blatantly references Nolan’s movie as it does. But for Hurwitz, this reference is just a beginning. More than anything, it is meant to refine exactly the differences between the characters. Batman, does not need to contend with an authoritarian supervillain who grabbed control of Homeland Security, now intent on assassinating him. The use of non-lethal force is not surprising when the Batman enters into play. And Batman is not trapped in a cycle of guilt and redemption, attempting to wrestle himself free from the grip of a psychopathic Egyptian god of vengeance.
‘Is this really my day in the sun?’, Moon Knight monologues at the end of the issue, ‘Is this really my time to be a hero?’. Hurwitz makes a credible effort to breathe new life into the character, by nourishing untapped depths. The so-called Vengeance of the Moon Knight, as the title proclaims is a profound and incisive device. Not only does it hearken back to days of yore at the House of Ideas, when a hero’s name was not enough for a comicbook title (it absolutely had to be the Invincible Iron Man, or the Amazing Spider-man, or Here Comes… Daredevil), but it also sets up the character frame for Moon Knight. The conceit of the fiction is that Moon Knight is the avatar of the Egyptian god of vengeance, Khonshu. So how exactly does a character such as this conceive of redemption for decades of killing criminals in the name of his god? For Moon Knight, redemption is an act of vengeance against the god that has made him a preternatural junky.